"NO FREE ASSOCIATION WITHOUT INDEPENDENCE"
THE SAN JUAN STAR, VIEWPOINT, SATURDAY, JULY 4, 1998
On the fourth of July this year, our nation, the United States of America, celebrates its 222nd birthday. And I mean the nation of which we are citizens. A citizenship which was not imposed, but requested early in the century in the name of the people of Puerto Rico by such great patriots as Muñoz Rivera, De Diego, Barbosa, Degetau, and Santiago Iglesias. A citizenship cherished by the overwhelming majority of Puerto Ricans and longed for by millions of oppressed people throughout the world.
And I refer to the United States and not Puerto Rico as our nation, because the juridical reality is that Puerto Rico is an ethnic and sociological entity, but not a free and independent and sovereign State, which could be characterized as a nation with the international recognition and acceptance given to such term by the courts and the international community. This will continue to be the political status of Puerto Rico, unless Puerto Ricans vote in favor of Puerto Rico being a sovereign and independent nation. To date, however, and for decades, the people of Puerto Rico have voted overwhelmingly against independence for the island. Those professors of constitutional law who claim to the contrary should know this simple juridical reality of the island's political status. They should also know that it is up to the people of Puerto Rico to decide the political status of the island and not for the international forums to do so.
On July 4, 1776, the United States adopted the Declaration of Independence, laying down the principles which have been the foundation of human progress ever since. This document not only marked the birth of freedom in the United States, but the birth of freedom as an international idea. It has been the inspiration and blueprint for democratic movements in other continents, and raised the torch of liberty, as we have seen in recent years in Eastern European countries.
To strengthen the freedom set by the Declaration of Independence and such inalienable rights as "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," the U.S. Constitution was ratified by 11 states and put into effect in 1789. To still strengthen the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, The Bill of Rights and the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution went into effect on December 15, 1791.
With the above-mentioned pillars of freedom throughout 222 years to this day, the United States, despite all its flaws, has become the mightiest, most blessed, wealthiest and most generous nation in the world, and stands today as a superpower and the world's leader.
The United States has also proved throughout all these years that in spite of what its enemies say to the contrary, it has no desire for conquest and is not blood thirsty; it has not lost its ability and readiness to fight for peace and just causes; it will not stand for aggression by tyrants; it uses power with prestige and justice; it is magnanimous in victory and sensitive to human suffering and needs; it painfully practices great patience and diplomacy even though possessing an arsenal of modern technology; and it is a responsible superpower, which means to be there when friends call in distress and help make a better and safer world.
For all of the above, it is, therefore, the duty of all loyal U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico to join fellow U.S. citizens throughout the nation in exalting the celebration of its 222nd birthday and its values as a great nation. It is also imperative, more than ever before on this fourth of July, for U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico to reaffirm their strong determination to continue struggling for real permanent union with the United States, which can only be achieved by Puerto Rico becoming the 51st state of the Union.
But whatever status option is our preference, we should struggle to achieve a consensus among us to support federal status legislation now before the U.S. Congress. That is, legislation to initiate a process to permit us to exercise our right of self-determination (recognized and respected by the U.S. Congress) by voting in a referendum for a legitimate, viable and realistic political status option that could best serve the interests of our dear island and its people.
We must insist on federal status legislation containing the three legitimate decolonization status options established in the United Nations Resolution 1541 of December 1960 and of which the United States is signatory. These options are:
Emergence as a sovereign independent state (meaning total absolute independence)
Integration with an independent and sovereign state (meaning in the case of Puerto Rico, statehood)
Free Association with an independent sovereign state. This means that once a territory becomes an independent and sovereign state, it can seek a free association with another independent and sovereign state.
Please note that Free Association is conceived as a treaty between two sovereign and independent nations. This is the case of the free association treaties (or pacts) between the United States and the Pacific island republics of Marshall, Micronesia and Palau.
It is, therefore, illusory to speak of a free association between Puerto Rico and the United States without Puerto Rico becoming first an independent and sovereign nation. To speak of a free association between Puerto Rico and the United States in which Puerto Rico is recognized as a nation with its own sovereignty and citizenship and maximum autonomic powers with the right to enter into treaties with other nations, and to have a representation in the United Nations, and at the same time enjoy economic parity with states of the union and common market, currency, defense and citizenship with the United States, is an ideal "best of two worlds" status. That is bound to be unacceptable to the U.S. Congress because it would not be within the U.S. constitutional system. It is time to stop pretending "to eat your cake and have it too," and to start calling things by their own name without disguises and subterfuges, as is the case of a proposed Treaty of Union between Puerto Rico and the United States in a free association relationship, without Puerto Rico first becoming an independent sovereign nation. But the insistence of such illusory status option is understandable in light of the fact that those supporting said status are fully aware of the fact that the overwhelming majority of Puerto Ricans reject independence and are firm in saying that their U.S. citizenship is not negotiable.